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$50 million gift to University from Frederick W. Smith & family
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$50 million gift to University from Frederick W. Smith & family

The University of Memphis announced it has received a $50 million gift courtesy of FedEx founder Fred Smith’s family foundation intended to facilitate the city’s renovations of both Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium and FedExForum.

The donation is the largest in school history and was earmarked for the stadium project, the university announced.

Additionally, a Memphis City Councilman has introduced a resolution to allocate and appropriate $120 million in State grant funding to go towards renovations of the stadium, as well as transfer ownership of the stadium to the University of Memphis Auxiliary Services Foundation. Pending council approval, the funding and ownership transfer will be effective Dec. 30, 2023.

Memphis Athletics will be launching a $50 million capital campaign to match the Smith Family’s significant commitment to the University, with the leadership phase of the campaign beginning immediately.

“As a Tiger fan and of U of M graduate, I could not be happier that we are able to make this happen,” Mayor Jim Strickland said. “With these renovations, the stadium will receive much-needed upgrades, and this puts the University in an excellent position as they continue to work towards entrance into a power five conference. Thanks to the State of Tennessee for its contribution, and thanks to both the UofM and Grizzlies teams for their cooperation as we have worked through this process.”

“The upgrade and modernization of this community’s two most important sports venues, FedExForum and the Liberty Bowl, is of paramount importance to the future of FedEx’s headquarters city,” said Richard W. Smith, on behalf of the Smith Family. “In the same vein, increasing the attractiveness of Memphis as an entertainment destination around FedExForum and the Liberty Bowl both is essential for economic growth and increased employment. Tourism is our second-largest industry after logistics, and this will help to drive additional activity and development here in our home city. We strongly believe Memphis’ future is tied to their success.”

“We truly appreciate the Smith Family for recognizing the strength of our University and athletic programs and wanting to help continue our momentum for the betterment of our entire City,” University of Memphis President Dr. Bill Hardgrave said. “Their substantial gift will help us chart the course of not just our football program, but our entire University, as we look to ascend nationally. We are grateful for the leadership of Mayor Jim Strickland and the City of Memphis in securing state funding for our City’s sports venues, and we appreciate the City’s ongoing partnership as we navigate this potential game-changing opportunity for our University.”

“We are immensely grateful to the Smiths for their incredible philanthropic leadership and for sharing our vision to elevate our football program, our University and our City,” University of Memphis Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Laird Veatch said. “We are confident that a generational gift of this magnitude will inspire others in Tiger Nation to match their energy and commitment.

“We also could not be more appreciative of the partnership and continuous dialogue with City leadership over the past 18 months, as we have navigated the opportunities this stadium project presents. We are thrilled about the prospect of the Auxiliary Services Foundation owning the stadium and the potential opportunities that presents. In that position, we would carry that same spirit of partnership forward with other stadium tenants such as the AutoZone Liberty Bowl game, the Southern Heritage Classic and the USFL’s Memphis Showboats. We eagerly await the City Council’s vote.”

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